Yes, it’s that time again, election time! Now we’ve had a couple of things like this recently; the elections to the European Parliament and the Scottish Independence Referendum in particular spring to mind. This time it’s the General Election, the big one! This time you are choosing a candidate to represent your constituency, and their party, in the British Parliament in London.
So, before we start in full, let’s have a quick run down of the facts, in case you’ve missed them already:
Firstly, Parliament is dissolved by the Queen. All the current Members of Parliament, MPs, become candidates. No more debates in the commons, no new legislation introduced, etc. Essentially, for four or five weeks, Parliament isn’t there, this has already happened and, to be honest, I can’t tell the difference!
Now candidates basically campaign in their constituency, hoping to be elected on their party’s platform and possibly keep their job! There are some strict rules regarding campaigning and so on, but that’s for another time. For now, the Parliamentary hopefuls just have to try and present their party’s ideas as the best.
Now, part three – Election day then comes, and you totter down to your local polling station, cast your vote for your favourite party or candidate, and then head home.
The candidates are elected using a ‘first past the post’ counting system. In each constituency the candidate with the most votes, although not necessarily a majority of the votes, wins the seat. It’s not the best system in the world and serves the old-fashioned two-party system rather well, but, again, that’s something for another time.
Each constituency up and down the country then declares who has won that constituency’s seat in the House of Commons, that candidate then becomes the Member of Parliament for the constituency. Once all the constituencies have declared their new MPs the process of forming a government begins.
Generally this is quite a simple affair, whichever party is the largest party in the House of Commons is invited by the Queen to form a government. In the past, when the two party system was more pronounced, this was quite simply whichever party was commanding a majority of seats in the Commons, now it’s a little more complex given that we have seen one hung parliament in 2010 and we’re on course for another this time around too. But, you guessed it, that too is for another time.
What’s important for this particular article is part three, your vote. You see, if you’re not registered to vote by the 20th of April, you will not be able to vote in the election on the 7th of May. And that kind of sucks.
Now, odds are that if you’re not registered to vote by this point, you’re probably saying to yourself that you don’t care of that it doesn’t matter. You couldn’t be further from the truth. We’ve all had a moan about politicians, about bankers, about hospitals, schools, the roads, the price of petrol, etc. Each of these things, and a whole load more besides, are decided in the world of politics, by the MPs sitting in the House of Commons.
You might well think that it won’t make a difference, that you’ll just get the same old geezer who’s held your seat since before you were born, perhaps you’re right. But then again, if everyone thought that way, then of course this old guy’s going to get in, because nobody can be bothered to vote him out!
In 2010’s general election, only 65% of the registered population turned out to vote (29,691,380 voters), 35% of the population, therefore, did not vote. To put that into perspective, the Conservatives got 307 seats with 36% of the vote. Labour got 258 seats with 29% of the vote. Imagine the difference that extra 35% could have made! Imagine just what impact another 10,391,980 votes could have had on the outcome of that election.
Now, I will acknowledge that things in this country don’t work as they should, even the electoral system is outdated, but that will never change if people don’t stand up and vote for a party that will push for that kind of change. Every person in this country has a voice and is entitled to use it, but if you don’t register to vote, you won’t be able to use that voice.
So, how do you register to vote then? Well, you can get a form online or you can go down to your council offices and register there. It’s pretty hassle free! With the deadline coming up, it’s probably easier to go to your council offices and register there at the time. You can get more info on the Parliament’s website for voting here: http://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/elections/register/
There is also some good news, if you’ve registered to vote before, for likes of the Euro elections or the Scottish Independence Referendum, the you don’t need to register again. However, if you’ve moved house since then you will need to register at your new address.
And even if your preferred candidate doesn’t win? You’ve still made a difference, because every vote your candidate gets is another bit of backing to try and push for change. Your vote always matters, use it!
If you need more persuading, go to About My Vote and find out more! http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/register-to-vote/why-should-i-register-to-vote